524 U.S. 721 (1998), 97-6146, Monge v. California

Docket Nº:Case No. 97-6146
Citation:524 U.S. 721, 118 S.Ct. 2246, 141 L.Ed.2d 615, 66 U.S.L.W. 4628
Party Name:MONGE v. CALIFORNIA
Case Date:June 26, 1998
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 721

524 U.S. 721 (1998)

118 S.Ct. 2246, 141 L.Ed.2d 615, 66 U.S.L.W. 4628

MONGE

v.

CALIFORNIA

Case No. 97-6146

United States Supreme Court

June 26, 1998

Argued April 28, 1998

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA

Syllabus

California's "three-strikes" law provides, among other things, that a convicted felon with one prior conviction for a serious felony—such as assault where the felon inflicted great bodily injury or personally used a dangerous or deadly weapon—will have his prison term doubled. Under California law, a number of procedural safeguards surround the assessment of prior conviction allegations: Defendants may invoke the right to a jury trial, the right to confront witnesses, and the privilege against self-incrimination; the prosecution must prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt; and the rules of evidence apply. After petitioner was convicted on three counts of violating California drug laws, the State sought to have his sentence enhanced based on a previous assault conviction and the resulting prison term. At the sentencing hearing, the prosecutor asserted that petitioner had personally used a stick during the assault, but introduced into evidence only a prison record showing that he had been convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and had served a prison term for the offense. Finding both sentencing allegations true, the trial court, as relevant here, doubled petitioner's sentence on count one and added a 1-year enhancement for the prior prison term. On appeal, the California Court of Appeal ruled that the evidence was insufficient to trigger the sentence enhancement because the prior conviction allegations were not proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and that a remand for retrial on the sentence enhancement would violate double jeopardy principles. The State Supreme Court reversed the double jeopardy ruling, with a plurality holding that the Double Jeopardy Clause, though applicable in the capital sentencing context, see Bullington v. Missouri, 451 U.S. 430, does not extend to noncapital sentencing proceedings.

Held:

The Double Jeopardy Clause does not preclude retrial on a prior conviction allegation in noncapital sentencing proceedings. Pp. 727-734.

(a) Historically, this Court has found double jeopardy protections inapplicable to sentencing proceedings because the determinations at issue do not place a defendant in jeopardy for an "offense." Nor can sentencing determinations generally be analogized to an acquittal. See United States v. DiFrancesco, 449 U.S. 117, 134. In Bullington, this

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Court established a "narrow exception" to the general rule that double jeopardy principles have no application in the sentencing context. There, after a capital defendant received a life sentence from the original sentencing jury and then obtained a new trial, the State announced its intention to seek the death penalty again. This Court imposed a double jeopardy bar, finding that the first jury's deliberations bore the hallmarks of a trial on guilt or innocence because the jury was presented with a choice between two alternatives together with standards to guide their decision, the prosecutor had to establish facts beyond a reasonable doubt, and the evidence was introduced in a separate proceeding that formally resembled a trial. Moreover, the Bullington Court reasoned that the embarrassment, expense, ordeal, anxiety, and insecurity that a capital defendant faces are at least equivalent to that faced by any defendant during the guilt phase of a criminal trial. Bullington's rule has since been applied to a capital sentencing scheme in which a judge made the original determination to impose a life sentence. See Arizona v. Rumsey, 467 U.S. 203, 209-210. Pp. 727-731.

(b) Bullington's rationale does not apply to California's noncapital sentencing proceedings. Even if those proceedings have the hallmarks identified in Bullington, a critical component of that case's reasoning was the capital sentencing context. In many respects, a capital trial's penalty phase is a continuation of the trial on guilt or innocence of capital murder. The death penalty is unique in both its severity and its finality, and the qualitative difference between a capital sentence and other penalties calls for a greater degree of reliability when it is imposed. That need for reliability accords with one of the central concerns animating the double jeopardy prohibition: preventing States from making repeated attempts to convict, thereby enhancing the possibility that an innocent person may be found guilty. Moreover, this Court has previously suggested that Bullington's rationale is confined to the unique circumstances of a capital sentencing proceeding, Caspari v. Bohlen, 510 U.S. 383, 392, and has cited Bullington as an example of the heightened procedural protections accorded capital defendants, Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 686-687. Pp. 731-733.

(c) Petitioner attempts to minimize the relevance of the death penalty context by arguing that the application of double jeopardy principles turns on the nature rather than the consequences of the proceeding. Bullington's holding, however, turns on both the trial-like proceedings at issue and the severity of the penalty at stake. In this Court's death penalty jurisprudence, moreover, the nature and the consequences of capital sentencing proceedings are intertwined. States' implementation of trial-like protections in noncapital sentencing proceedings is a

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matter of legislative grace, not constitutional command, and it does not compel extension of the double jeopardy bar. Pp. 733-734.

16 Cal.4th 826, 941 P.2d 1121, affirmed.

O'Connor, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Kennedy, Thomas, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Stevens, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 734. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Souter and Ginsburg, JJ., joined, post, p. 737.

Cliff Gardner, by appointment of the Court, 522 U.S. 1106, argued the cause and filed briefs for petitioner.

David F. Glassman, Deputy Attorney General of California, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Daniel E. Lungren, Attorney General, George Williamson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Carol Wendelin Pollack, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Susan D. Martynec, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, and Carl N. Henry, Deputy Attorney General.

Matthew D. Roberts argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Waxman, Acting Assistant Attorney General Keeney, and Deputy Solicitor General Dreeben. [*]

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Justice O'Connor delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question whether the Double Jeopardy Clause, which we have found applicable in the capital sentencing context, see Bullington v. Missouri, 451 U.S. 430(1981), extends to noncapital sentencing proceedings. We hold that it does not, and accordingly affirm the judgment of the California Supreme Court.

I

Petitioner was charged under California law with one count of using a minor to sell marijuana, Cal. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 11361(a) (West 1991), one count of sale or transportation of marijuana, § 11360(a), and one count of possession of marijuana for sale, § 11359. In the information, the State also notified petitioner that it would seek to prove two sentence enhancement allegations: that petitioner had previously been convicted of assault and that he had served a prison term for that offense, see Cal. Penal Code Ann. §§ 245(a)(1), 667(e)(1), and 667.5 (West Supp. 1998).

Under California's "three-strikes" law, a defendant convicted of a felony who has two qualifying prior convictions for "serious felonies" receives a minimum sentence of 25 years to life; when the instant conviction was preceded by one serious felony offense, the court doubles a defendant's term of imprisonment. §§ 667(d)(1) and (e)(1)-(2). An assault conviction qualifies as a serious felony if the defendant either inflicted great bodily injury on another person or personally

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used a dangerous or deadly weapon during the assault. §§ 1192.7(c)(8) and (23). According to California law, a number of procedural safeguards surround the assessment of prior conviction allegations: Defendants may invoke the right to a jury trial, the right to confront witnesses, and the privilege against self-incrimination; the prosecution must prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt; and the rules of evidence apply. See, e. g., 16 Cal.4th 826, 833-834, 941 P.2d 1121, 1126 (1997).

Here, petitioner waived his right to a jury trial on the sentencing issues, and the court granted his motion to bifurcate the proceedings. After a jury entered a guilty verdict on the substantive offenses, the truth of the prior conviction allegations was argued before the court. The prosecutor asserted that petitioner had personally used a stick in committing the assault, see Tr. 189-190 (June 12, 1995), App. 12, but introduced into evidence only a prison record demonstrating that petitioner had been convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and had served a prison term for the offense, see People's Exh. 1 (filed June 12, 1995), App. 3-6. The trial court found both sentencing allegations true and imposed an 11-year term of imprisonment: 5 years on count one, doubled to 10 under the three-strikes law, and a 1-year enhancement for the prior prison term. The court also stayed a 3-year sentence on count 2 and ordered the 2-year sentence on count 3 to be served concurrently.

Petitioner appealed, and the California Court of Appeal, on its own motion, requested briefing as to whether sufficient evidence supported the finding that petitioner had a qualifying prior conviction. The State conceded that the record of the sentencing proceedings did not contain proof...

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